lateral  
Wed, Dec 19, 2007
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Genetic Variation Accelerates
Evolution, as we all know, has crawled to a halt. All we will see in the coming millennia is some slight modification in the skin on, and ligaments controlling our opposable thumbs which will ease the pain of text messaging. Perhaps a marginally more car-seat shaped body, to reflect the time we spend in those vehicles. Except for that we will evolve no more.

Perhaps you don't agree with me, and neither does John Hawks, anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He believes positive selection has been occurring 100 times faster during the last 5.000 years than in any other period of human development. I think you should agree with him. I do.

Part of the explanation may be the incredibly population growth the human race has experienced. More individuals means more room for genetic variations. However throughout history we have divided ourselves into finer units, tribes, migratory groups etc. which may have pushed us to adapt quickly to changing and widely varying environments.

How will the influence of space-migration influence us in comparison to moving about on the surface of the earth? Will groups inhabiting different regions of space develop distinct traits suited to those habitats? Deep space compared to a geostationary orbit? A space station with artificial gravity compared to planetary colonies? Moon colonies versus Mars colonies?


Wed, Dec 19, 2007  Permanent link
Categories: genetics
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john     Wed, Jan 2, 2008  Permanent link
see, i struggle with that idea.

the currently accepted theory of evolution states that if a species can survive and then procreate, its traits will be passed on.

so how is it that traits like text-adapted thumbs of car seat shaped bodies will grow to be more prominent? they clearly have nothing to do with our ability to survive or breed.

the characteristics you mentioned are mere conveniences, people who can text more comfortably are not going to be more likely to breed, than those who can't, right? and i doubt there will be a higher fatality rate for people who find their car seat slightly uncomfortable.

until a theory of evolution that can explain how a species can adapt to the minor nuances of their surroundings is founded, humanity will continue to grow more diverse, and will not progress in any particular direction.
Wildcat     Thu, Jan 3, 2008  Permanent link
Considering humanity as a whole, there is nothing about natural selection that suggests our optimal design. We are probably not even optimized for the Paleolithic, much less for life in the 21st century. And yet, we are now acquiring the tools that will enable us to attempt our own optimization. Many people think this project is fraught with risk. But is it riskier than doing nothing? There may be current threats to civilization that we cannot even perceive, much less resolve, at our current level of intelligence. Could any rational strategy be more dangerous than following the whims of Nature? This is not to say that our growing capacity to meddle with the human genome couldn't present some moments of Faustian over-reach. But our fears on this front must be tempered by a sober understanding of how we got here. Mother Nature is not now, nor has she ever been, looking out for us

the rest of this fascinating article by Sam Harris is here